After the April uprising was followed by inter-ethnic violence, the Uzbek-heavy city of Osh is entrenching practices that make it near-impossible for Uzbek families to make a living
An ethnic Uzbek child helps to rebuild houses, destroyed during ethnic clashes, in the city of Osh / Reuters
OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- "What is it like to lose everything?" An Uzbek man asked me over tea last week, his brow crinkled in obvious anguish. "Your wife killed, your daughter raped, your store smashed, your home burned down? What would you do?"
We were sitting in a bucolic place: a narrow, swiftly moving stream nearby gave a gentle burble while birds tweeted above us. The chaikhana, or teahouse, where we were eating lunch was nestled in the outskirts of Osh city, in an Uzbek neighborhood, called a mahallah. Narimon had invited me in this mahallah when he saw me taking pictures of some ruined buildings in the main city market. Narimon isn't his real name, but like most Uzbeks here he is unwilling to speak on the record for fear of reprisal from the Kyrgyzstan government, which is dominated, like the country itself, by the ethnic Kyrgyz majority.
Last summer, crowds of young Kyrgyz men turned these Uzbek mahallahs into scenes of horrifying violence in what people here now call "The June Events" or even "The War." Over the course of about 72 hours in June 2010, upwards of 2,000 people were killed, thousands more were beaten and raped, thousands of buildings and homes were torched, and nearly 100,000 Uzbeks fled across the border toward Andijon in nearby Uzbekistan.
The sudden onset of this violence caught many people here by surprise. There was always some tension between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities: the Uzbeks dominated the business community of Osh, and the Kyrgyz dominated the politics. But until the April Revolution last year, which saw the ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, there hadn't been much violence since the 1990 riots, part of a paroxysm of ethnic violence that accompanied the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
"Thirty years ago, there were no Kyrgyz here," Narimon said. "When they'd come down from the mountains, we'd beat them on their donkeys." He made a disgusted gesture. "Now, they beat us. Kill us. This is how it goes."
Almost every Uzbek you find in Osh has a heartbreaking story of tragedy: homes burned down, family members beaten to death in the street. The local government response has worsened the injustice. The Uzbeks who didn't lose everything in the riots and fires now face a predatory local government that threatens them unless they sign over controlling stakes of their businesses to Kyrgyz. I found several restaurants and cafes run by Kyrgyz that had been owned by Uzbeks before the June Events.
What followed the June violence was economic dislocation on a massive scale: tens of thousands of people, thousands of families have been thrown into chaos, and can't rebuild their lives so long as they must give half of their earnings over to the Kyrgyz. The response by NGOs and UN agencies here has been inadequate as well. While UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which works in Osh) is very skilled at disaster relief, none of the agencies operating in this city have been able to address the fundamental social and economic problems that stem from the June Events.
"These NGOs mean well," Adilya told me. She lost her shop when a gang of Kyrgyz men smashed in her windows, stole all of her inventory and cash, and set her home on fire. "But they hire mostly Kyrgyz to work for them. I can't tell them a Kyrgyz is harassing me."
These NGOs have helped to fund a recovery effort, channeled through the local Kyrgyz-dominated government that Uzbeks feel so uncomfortable approaching for help. Most directly affected businesses have received a credit for rebuilding equivalent to about $1,000. The Kyrgyz I spoke to think this should be enough to fix a few broken windows. The Uzbeks complain that it's not enough if their business was burned to the ground, and besides which the money goes to Kyrgyz businesses first.
Some Kyrgyz businesses were affected as well. I spoke with one restaurant owner whose store was in the path of the rioters: his windows were broken, and the looters stole almost everything inside except the oven. It took nearly 11 months to find new suppliers, repair the damage, and re-open for business. On that same block, however, Uzbek businesses remain burned out husks, never rebuilt and never reoccupied.
It's difficult to look at the current situation and see hope. The Uzbeks have been systematically excluded or pushed out of public life. Most of the Uzbek men I spoke to stayed in their mahallah, afraid to be harassed by the Kyrgyz police. Most of the shoppers and low-level workers at the market are women, since they're less likely to be targeted. The Kyrgyz, on the other hand, insist there are no problems and Osh is a city picking itself up by its own bootstraps. I asked one Kyrgyz man at a political rally for Adahan Madumarov, a presidential candidate, if he thought the tension between communities was a big deal. "You know those Uzbeks," he said dismissively. "They exaggerate everything. They just want UN money."
Kyrgyz here control the government, and the fear Uzbeks feel for the future is palpable. But this is no simple case of ethnic cleansing. The tension here is economic, and has its roots in the very design of the Soviet Union, of Stalin's ethnic policies in the 1930s. By the time Gorbachev introduced market reforms in the 1980s, the Uzbeks, who are traditionally merchants and farmers, controlled a majority of the commercial activity in this little corner of Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz, meanwhile, who were more reliant on animal husbandry, were impoverished by the reforms. The situation only grew worse in the 1990s. Over Kyrgyzstan's first ten years of independence, the country's per capita GDP shrank by 54 percent.
The Uzbeks affected by the June Events are desperate for justice, but they don't know where it can come from. The Kyrgyz control the courts, the police, and the mayor's office. Bishkek is wrapped up in the Presidential election and doesn't want a distraction down south. More than one Uzbek spoke, darkly, of the need to get "personal justice" for what happened. The Kyrgyz, meanwhile, seem to think the Uzbeks are just whining and should get back to work.
Meanwhile, the economic dislocation continues. Every Uzbek with money has either left or is planning to leave for Russia (the only country that will take them in any number). While many businesses have been restored, with a Kyrgyz face, the whole region is in a depression: incomes are down, many businesses are facing mounting debts, and the divisions between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities seems to be growing by the day. It is difficult to see a future for Osh that doesn't end in disaster.
It happened gradually—and until the U.S. figures out how to treat the problem, it will only get worse.
It’s 2020, four years from now. The campaign is under way to succeed the president, who is retiring after a single wretched term. Voters are angrier than ever—at politicians, at compromisers, at the establishment. Congress and the White House seem incapable of working together on anything, even when their interests align. With lawmaking at a standstill, the president’s use of executive orders and regulatory discretion has reached a level that Congress views as dictatorial—not that Congress can do anything about it, except file lawsuits that the divided Supreme Court, its three vacancies unfilled, has been unable to resolve.
On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan resigned after proving unable to pass a budget, or much else. The House burned through two more speakers and one “acting” speaker, a job invented following four speakerless months. The Senate, meanwhile, is tied in knots by wannabe presidents and aspiring talk-show hosts, who use the chamber as a social-media platform to build their brands by obstructing—well, everything. The Defense Department is among hundreds of agencies that have not been reauthorized, the government has shut down three times, and, yes, it finally happened: The United States briefly defaulted on the national debt, precipitating a market collapse and an economic downturn. No one wanted that outcome, but no one was able to prevent it.
The results of the referendum are, in theory, not legally binding.
Lest we think the Euroskepticism displayed this week by British voters is new, let me present a scene from the BBC’s Yes, Minister, a comedy about the U.K. civil service’s relationship with a minister. The series ran from 1980 to ’84 (and, yes, it was funny), at a time when the European Union was a mere glint in its founders’ eyes.
The Europe being referred to in the scene is the European Economic Community (EEC), an eventually 12-member bloc established in the mid-1950s, to bring about greater economic integration among its members.
In many ways, the seeds of the U.K.’s Thursday referendum on its membership in the European Union were sown soon after the country joined the now-defunct EEC in 1973. Then, as now, the ruling Conservative Party and opposition Labour, along with the rest of the country, were deeply divided over the issue. In the run-up to the general election the following year, Labour promised in its manifesto to put the U.K.’s EEC membership to a public referendum. Labour eventually came to power and Parliament passed the Referendum Act in 1975, fulfilling that campaign promise. The vote was held on June 5, 1975, and the result was what the political establishment had hoped for: an overwhelming 67 percent of voters supported the country’s EEC membership.
Unexpected discoveries in the quest to cure an extraordinary skeletal condition show how medically relevant rare diseases can be.
When Jeannie Peeper was born in 1958, there was only one thing amiss: her big toes were short and crooked. Doctors fitted her with toe braces and sent her home. Two months later, a bulbous swelling appeared on the back of Peeper’s head. Her parents didn’t know why: she hadn’t hit her head on the side of her crib; she didn’t have an infected scratch. After a few days, the swelling vanished as quickly as it had arrived.
When Peeper’s mother noticed that the baby couldn’t open her mouth as wide as her sisters and brothers, she took her to the first of various doctors, seeking an explanation for her seemingly random assortment of symptoms. Peeper was 4 when the Mayo Clinic confirmed a diagnosis: she had a disorder known as fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP).
American society increasingly mistakes intelligence for human worth.
As recently as the 1950s, possessing only middling intelligence was not likely to severely limit your life’s trajectory. IQ wasn’t a big factor in whom you married, where you lived, or what others thought of you. The qualifications for a good job, whether on an assembly line or behind a desk, mostly revolved around integrity, work ethic, and a knack for getting along—bosses didn’t routinely expect college degrees, much less ask to see SAT scores. As one account of the era put it, hiring decisions were “based on a candidate having a critical skill or two and on soft factors such as eagerness, appearance, family background, and physical characteristics.”
The 2010s, in contrast, are a terrible time to not be brainy. Those who consider themselves bright openly mock others for being less so. Even in this age of rampant concern over microaggressions and victimization, we maintain open season on the nonsmart. People who’d swerve off a cliff rather than use a pejorative for race, religion, physical appearance, or disability are all too happy to drop the s‑bomb: Indeed, degrading others for being “stupid” has become nearly automatic in all forms of disagreement.
The Republican candidate is deeply unpopular, and his Democratic rival is promoting her own version of American nationalism.
American commentators have spent the weekend pondering the similarities between Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and America’s impending vote on whether to take leave it of its senses by electing Donald Trump. The similarities have been well-rehearsed: The supporters of Brexit—like the supporters of Trump--are older, non-college educated, non-urban, distrustful of elites, xenophobic, and nostalgic. Moreover, many British commentators discounted polls showing that Brexit might win just as many American commentators, myself very much included, discounted polls showing that Trump might win the Republican nomination. Brexit may even result in the installation this fall of a new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is entertaining, self-promoting, vaguely racist, doughy, and orange. It’s all too familiar.
The June 23 vote represents a huge popular rebellion against a future in which British people feel increasingly crowded within—and even crowded out of—their own country.
I said goodnight to a gloomy party of Leave-minded Londoners a few minutes after midnight. The paper ballots were still being counted by hand. Only the British overseas territory of Gibraltar had reported final results. Yet the assumption of a Remain victory filled the room—and depressed my hosts. One important journalist had received a detailed briefing earlier that evening of the results of the government’s exit polling: 57 percent for Remain.
The polling industry will be one victim of the Brexit vote. A few days before the vote, I met with a pollster who had departed from the cheap and dirty methods of his peers to perform a much more costly survey for a major financial firm. His results showed a comfortable margin for Remain. Ten days later, anyone who heeded his expensive advice suffered the biggest percentage losses since the 2008 financial crisis.
The city is riding high after the NBA final. But with the GOP convention looming, residents are bracing for disappointment.
Cleveland’s in a weird mood.
My son and I attended the Indians game on Father’s Day, the afternoon before game seven of the NBA Finals—which, in retrospect, now seems like it should be blockbustered simply as The Afternoon Before—when the Cavaliers would take on the Golden State Warriors and bring the city its first major-league sports championship in 52 years.
I am 52 years old. I’ve lived in Northeast Ohio all my life. I know what Cleveland feels like. And it’s not this.
In the ballpark that day, 25,269 of us sat watching a pitcher’s duel, and the place was palpably subdued. The announcer and digitized big-screen signage made no acknowledgement of the city’s excitement over the Cavaliers. There were no chants of “Let’s Go Cavs,” no special seventh-inning-stretch cheer for the Indians’ basketball brothers, who play next door in the Quicken Loans Arena, which in a few weeks will host the Republican National Convention.
There's a reason why the first thing we often ask someone when we meet them, right after we learn their name, is "where's home for you?"
There's a reason why the first thing we often ask someone when we meet them, right after we learn their name, is "where's home for you?"
My house is a shrine to my homes. There's a triptych of sunsets next to my bedroom door, dusk forever falling over the small Michigan town where I grew up, the beach next to my college dorm and Place de la Concorde in Paris, where I spent a cliché but nonetheless happy semester. And that's only the beginning. Typographic posters of Michigan and Chicago hang above my bed, a photo of taxis zooming around Manhattan sits atop my dresser and a postcard of my hometown's famous water tower is taped to my door. My roommate and I have an entire wall in our kitchen plastered with maps of places we've been, and twin Ferris wheels, one at Navy Pier, one at Place de la Concorde, are stacked on top of one another in my living room.
A hotly contested, supposedly ancient manuscript suggests Christ was married. But believing its origin story—a real-life Da Vinci Code, involving a Harvard professor, a onetime Florida pornographer, and an escape from East Germany—requires a big leap of faith.
On a humid afternoon this past November, I pulled off Interstate 75 into a stretch of Florida pine forest tangled with runaway vines. My GPS was homing in on the house of a man I thought might hold the master key to one of the strangest scholarly mysteries in recent decades: a 1,300-year-old scrap of papyrus that bore the phrase “Jesus said to them, My wife.” The fragment, written in the ancient language of Coptic, had set off shock waves when an eminent Harvard historian of early Christianity, Karen L. King, presented it in September 2012 at a conference in Rome.
Never before had an ancient manuscript alluded to Jesus’s being married. The papyrus’s lines were incomplete, but they seemed to describe a dialogue between Jesus and the apostles over whether his “wife”—possibly Mary Magdalene—was “worthy” of discipleship. Its main point, King argued, was that “women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.” She thought the passage likely figured into ancient debates over whether “marriage or celibacy [was] the ideal mode of Christian life” and, ultimately, whether a person could be both sexual and holy.
Why professors, librarians, and politicians are shunning liberal arts in the name of STEM
I have been going to academic conferences since I was about 12 years old. Not that I am any sort of prodigy—both of my parents are, or were at one point, academics, so I was casually brought along for the ride. I spent the bulk of my time at these conferences in hotel lobbies, transfixed by my Game Boy, waiting for my mother to be done and for it to be dinnertime. As with many things that I was made to do as a child, however, I eventually came to see academic conferences as an integral part of my adult life.
So it was that, last year, I found myself hanging out at the hotel bar at the annual conference of the Modern Language Association, despite the fact that I am not directly involved with academia in any meaningful way. As I sipped my old fashioned, I listened to a conversation between several aging literature professors about the “digital humanities,” which, as far as I could tell, was a needlessly jargonized term for computers in libraries and writing on the Internet. The digital humanities were very “in” at MLA that year. They had the potential, said a white-haired man in a tweed jacket, to modernize and reinvigorate humanistic scholarship, something that all involved seemed to agree was necessary. The bespectacled scholars nodded their heads with solemn understanding, speaking in hushed tones about how they wouldn’t be making any new tenure-track hires that year.